Before they produced The Good Girl, director Miguel Arteta, screenwriter Mike White, and the Weitz brothers of About a Boy fame (all Wesleyan graduates except Chris) teamed up on Chuck and Buck, the disturbing story of a man-child who's stuck on his childhood love interest. When Buck is reunited with his long-lost lust object, what separates this movie from, say, Sweet Home Alabama is that the person he is in love with is a man.
The movie opens with the death of Buck's mother with whom he still lives. Buck (Mike White) writes to his childhood friend Chuck (Chris Weitz), an agent in L.A., inviting him to the funeral. Since Buck is so fixated on Chuck for the rest of the movie, it is unclear why he waited until his mother's death to contact Chuck when he was in possession of his new address.
After the funeral, Chuck comments that Buck still looks exactly the same.
"You don't," Buck answers. "Your face is fatter."
Buck wears childish, striped Polo shirts, creates kindergarten style collages, and seems to suck on lollipops constantly. His social skills and interpersonal awareness have not progressed beyond a first grade level either.
Before they leave the post-funeral gathering, Chuck and his fiancée Carlyn (Beth Colt) politely invite Buck out to L.A. to visit them. Chuck stops off in the bathroom before hitting the road, and Buck walks in on him, embraces his friend warmly, and grabs his butt. Chuck recoils in disgust and leaves with Carlyn.
While most people would be mortified by this incident and either call their buddy to apologize or write off the friendship, Buck acts as if he has done nothing wrong and phones Chuck in L.A. When Chuck tells Buck that he'll be busy for the next month or so, Buck still doesn't take the hint and moves to L.A. Thus, the stalking begins.
Unaware of the wonders of Google, Buck utilizes old fashioned methods of stalking: hang-up phone calls, waiting outside Chuck's office, showing up at his home unannounced, and climbing a ladder to peer into his bedroom window.
The thing I like most about Chuck and Buck is that the viewer has sympathy for all of the characters. All too often in Hollywood films, the characters are too extreme. There is usually the über-villain contrasted with the golden-boy hero. This is not the case in Chuck and Buck. Your heart aches for Buck who has just lost his mother and been spurned by his crush. But, on the other hand, as much as we want Chuck and Carlyn to be mean so that we can sympathize more strongly with Buck's pain, the young couple is quite kind to poor Buck. When he shows up on their doorstep, Carlyn invites him in for strawberry ice cream.
When Chuck refuses to see Buck anymore, Buck writes an allegorical play about their lives, representing Carlyn as a witch. Theater worker Beverly, played by the wonderful Lupe Ontiveros, directs the fairy tale play for Buck in a theater directly across the road from Chuck's office. Beverly tells Buck that she sees the witch in the transparently titled "Hank and Frank" as a castrator, but, although he wrote it himself, Buck cannot see beyond the surface of the story. Paul Weitz plays the fascinating character of Sam, one of the actors in the play onto whom Buck transfers some of his feelings for Chuck. Also, keep an eye out for Maya Rudolph as Chuck's secretary.
Mirroring Buck's fixation on childhood is the soundtrack of high-pitched, inane pop provided by Gwendolyn Sanford. To comfort himself after his mother's death, Buck plays the sickeningly cheerful "Freedom of the Heart" on his toy-like turntable and sucks on a BlowPop. The sugary refrain of this song, "Ooodily, ooodily, oodily, oodily, ooodily, oodily, fun-fun-fun" is in harsh contrast to the bleakness of Buck's life.
The character of Chuck, whom everyone but Buck calls Charlie, is very complex and played subtly by Chris Weitz. At first, the viewer thinks that any past sexual contact between the two men was purely in Buck's mind. So, you might be shocked by the answer to Buck's question:
"Remember those games we used to play?"
And, no, he's not talking about Trivial Pursuit.
The DVD my friends rented was in full-screen format, and looked a bit squashed. If you can, try to find a wide-screen version, since they didn't do a very good job adapting it for full screen. Also, Chuck and Buck is shot on digital video and looks charmingly low budget, which it is. However, the colors are very dull, and some of the night scenes are too dark.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
What did you think of this review?